Students participate in walkout to end gun violence
One month after the shooting at Stoneman Marjory Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, more than 500 students participated in the #Enoughisenough national school walkout during Tonka Time from 10 to 10:50 a.m. on March 14 to raise awareness about the effect of gun violence on school safety.
The students wore orange, representing the national school safety color and the official color of the #Enoughisenough movement. Hunters wear the color orange to order to let other hunters know that they are nearby and to not to shoot, and according to junior Joe Bell, this also symbolizes awareness of student safety – to ‘not shoot’.
“I am here because I believe that the voices of the students will be the change in the world,” junior Rosie Rodriguez said. “And if we can show that our voices are heard, then in these types of situations we can get through them together rather than having someone struggle. We can be a community to help each other and have love and know that we are safe.”
Bell, junior Katie Bullock and senior Danielle Dodd organized the march and are also organizers of March For Our Lives Kansas City which will take place in Theis Park in downtown Kansas City on March 24. The purpose of this walkout was to bring unity as well as to emphasize the value of student lives and their right to a safe learning environment, according to the organizers.
“This is not just a walkout. It’s not just a march,” Bullock said in her speech during the walkout demonstration. “This, us, we are a generation and I hope we are the generation that can turn around the proliferation of gun violence because I never want there to be another Parkland.”
Though many students participated in the walkout, some decisively did not, including junior Donna Zack.
“I decided not to go because I don’t think that walking around a track and talking about something will make a big difference,” Zack said. “I feel like most people went out there for the wrong reason. There was a majority of people that went out there to actually be supportive and raise awareness, but I think that some people saw media attention, they wanted to post things on Snapchat and make fools of themselves instead of actually be there for the cause.”
Although the walkout itself took fifty minutes, Bullock emphasized in her speech that the purpose of the march must carry on past that time.
“But it doesn’t stop here. It doesn’t stop on this track. This has to carry into your classrooms and your living rooms,” Bullock said. “This is not just a march, it’s a movement. And I ask that we carry this movement in our thoughts and in our voices instead of in our backpacks because silence will not change a thing like this.”
According to teachers and administrators, the National Education Association told teachers they were not allowed to participate in the student march. However, in the organization of the walkout, student-organizers discussed the plans with the principal Eric Johnson regarding possible safety concerns.
“A few days after Joe and I initially met with Johnson, he pulled us back into his office and told us he was worried that this many people in one place would spell just another tragedy,” Bullock said. “I didn’t understand what he meant at first. I was confused, and then it hit me. When you plan a march for peace, you should not be worried that it will turn into a shooting. This is why I march.”
In an email to parents, Johnson stated the impact of the walkout on the school day.
“Finally, I want to reiterate that there was very little interruption to instructional time. We continued school schedule as normal, so when the bell rang for Advisory, teachers went to those locations to serve the kids who chose not to participate in the demonstration,” Johnson said. “I can say with pride that the focus of the demonstration was on unity and not promoting partisan discussions. The students were well-organized and purposeful in their actions.”
Nearly 170 taped-off chairs were set-up behind the stage to represent the number of student lives lost in school shootings since Columbine, a shooting that took place in 1999 – the birth year of many seniors. Bell started the walkout by addressing this fact, as well as the purpose of the walkout.
“No matter what race, religion, gender or background you are, as students we are all affected by school shootings,” Bell said. “It could’ve been here. It could’ve just as easily been me, or you, or you, or you, or any of us here today… The reasons we have gathered here to demonstrate and project our voices is for our fallen students and staff around our country who no longer have the voices to speak for themselves because they have been gunned down. We must not lose this chance to demand action. We should not be marching for our lives, but that’s exactly what this is.”
After Bell’s speech, demonstrating students marched on the track for 17 minutes, in memory of the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Students also led chants during the march such as “Just love. No hate. We just want to graduate,” and “Our lives matter,” and “We want change.” When the walk concluded, three more speakers – Bullock, Dodd and senior Harper Ross – shared their own speeches with the participating students.
“Change is something that is hard to come by. Change is something that takes pushing and pulling and a never-ending amount of work,” Dodd said in her speech. “…The prerogative to learn should always trump the prerogative of weaponry. I want to feel safe in my school. I want my 10-year-old brother to feel safe in school. I want my 6-year-old brother to feel safe in his school. I want the kids I see every day to be safe in our school. It is ours. It is our place that we create and add to and whether you hate this place or pour your heart and soul into Winnetonka, you deserve to be safe. We all deserve to be safe.”
Ross concluded the walkout telling students how they can make a difference beyond the walkout.
“I just want to, just as everyone else has, thank you all for coming out here today, for using your presence, your voice to stand up for something you believe in and something that affects us all – school safety,” Ross said. “Today we were given the opportunity to exercise our voices for our cause. And in a world rich with injustice, we cashed in our right to speak out. Today at the end of our march, our protest will end, but at 10:17, we do not have to go silent. While it may seem sometimes what we think means nothing, today we proved that it means something, today we made our thoughts mean something. And through the most basic forms of activism and community engagement, we can continue to make them mean something.”
Ross then urged students old enough to vote to do so and encouraged students to text the word RESIST to 50409 to find who the representatives are in the area where they live, so they can contact them. At the end of the demonstration, students were given orange slips of paper to write down their thoughts regarding gun violence in schools, which were placed on the inside pillars by the main entrance.
According to Johnson, the demonstration was finished by 10:50 a.m., in time for students to go to their third block class. Johnson stated that though “students missed their academic intervention time, classroom instruction time was safeguarded,” in an email sent to parents after the walkout.
Other schools such as Park Hill South reportedly penalized students for their participation in the national high school walkout by counting them as tardy and administering lunch detentions. While the administration at Winnetonka did not condone this walkout, they did not stop or discipline students in any way but instead provided additional police security on campus to ensure student safety.
“I want to say thank you to them [police officers at the school],” Bell said. “Student safety is why we’re here, and they provided it for us.”
An open letter about the walkout from one of its organizers
Please, understand why this matters to us
March 14, 2018
To the parents, to the community, to those that said we were wrong to do this,
If you have read any other Tonka News stories, you may know me as the editor-in-chief of this website and newsmagazine. If you have been inside Winnetonka, you probably just know me as Katie. Today and in the weeks leading up to today, I was also an organizer of our school’s walkout.
I was born in February of 2001, nearly two years after Columbine. When I was in the fourth grade, I came home from school to see my television blasting endless news coverage of Sandy Hook. Since then, it feels like the shootings have never stopped, like every bullet shot has just ricocheted until the next one was fired. A part of me gave up on changing anything a long time ago; then Parkland happened, and it was like every cell in my body and the bodies of those around me woke up and decided that enough was enough.
You see, we are the generation that has grown up with these shootings, seeing them so often they’re almost normal. We are a generation that grew up learning about 9/11 instead of experiencing it first hand. This violence is not shocking to us, it is every day, and this desensitization is not only terrifying but not okay in any way.
On a local TV news station’s livestream of the march posted on social media, there were a lot of comments made by people who did not witness the walkout. The following are a sampling of some of those comments. This is addressed to all the people who said we were wrong:
“These kids are only out there to get out of class. Why don’t they go inside and do something productive.”
First, we would not have been in a traditional class anyway. We left the building during the last 12 minutes of our 81-minute long second period and the rest of the demonstration was during a school-wide free period where students are allowed to attend whatever classroom they would like for extra help.
Second, you ask us to do something productive and so I would like to ask how it is you believe 50 minutes of lecture or project work about mitochondria or Machiavelli would ever be more empowering than this march. I would ask you how us calling representatives and showing our congressmen that gun violence is a problem to us is not productive. I would ask you how our marching is in any way less productive than you commenting on a Facebook video of us doing so.
Third, we were not only “there to get out of class,” and please read that with as much vehemence as is necessary to understand its truth: we were not there to get out of class. A week after Parkland, a boy dropped his backpack outside my classroom and three people inside jumped in their seats and whispered “shooting,” like it was a question. We have grown up walking in crowds wondering if that meant it would get us killed. The nihilism I have personally witnessed in this generation is as shocking as it is saddening, and this is us ending it. We were not there to get out of class, we were there to mourn the lives of hundreds of students and to make sure we never have to mourn again.
“What a lazy way to try and change things.”
We advocated voter registration and students walked out of the march calling representatives. We physically walked for 17 minutes. We chanted, we cheered and we screamed for change. We did not sit back and hope for it, we demanded it. We are still demanding it. What else do you suggest we do? Stay in our classes and watch the news? No, we are not reading the headlines anymore, we are writing them, we are changing them.
“How disrespectful for them to do this to their teachers who are only trying to help such an ungrateful generation.”
Do you know how many teachers told me to stop this? None. Every teacher I have seen today has thanked me or said they were happy. They were not allowed to participate by order of the National Education Association and the district, but in so many ways they did. One of my teachers saw me in the hallway before the walkout and excitedly showed me her running shirt because it was orange. Many had been slated to speak before they were told they couldn’t walk out.
Let me tell you, I cannot speak for every teacher, but everyone I have spoken to was proud of what we have done.
And why would we do this if we were not grateful to our teachers? This is because of them. This is because we want to feel safe in their classrooms so that we can learn from them. My father is a teacher – is my teacher – and I love my other teachers as much as I love him, which is saying something. We want this education that they can offer us, and we are fighting for it.
“This is just a bunch of idiot students. They’re probably the worst in the school and in this nation.”
I am the editor-in-chief of our nationally ranked newspaper and news website, the vice president of Key Club, a state level cellist, a competitive member of our poetry slam team, a cross country, swim and track athlete, a member of National Honor Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I have a 4.0 and take exclusively Advanced Placement, college credit and honors core classes. I’ve had four seasonal jobs in three years. That’s just a tiny fraction of my resume and I pale in comparison to my organization counterparts Joe Bell, Danielle Dodd (who discovered she had been accepted to the top lighting design college program in the nation minutes before the walkout) and Harper Ross.
And we are just the organizers. The hundreds of other students are as distinguished as us.
“Just another example of kids doing what they please while parents follow them around with their thumbs in their mouth.”
If you are a parent, and this is your way of using your voice, then I suggest you please try putting your thumb in your mouth for a moment so you can think before you speak. Maybe then you would listen to us and actually comprehend what we are saying. You’re right, we are doing what we please, as we are allowed to do so. And what we please is ending gun violence and the loss of life in this nation. If you don’t want that, then please try to educate me on why you don’t want it instead of just saying my opinion is wrong. Let’s have dialogue, let’s have a conversation. Let’s listen to one another and figure out the best path to change.
Also, it is time for students to speak. We have grown up in a different era than you, and we have already been silent for too long. It is time for us to learn to use our voices to carry a movement like this. That’s how we change the world.
And to the administration and staff who were so supportive,
Thank you. Thank you so, so much. Students at other schools were blocked from leaving or were disciplined, yet I felt nothing but love and support from our school. To the teachers who came up to me and showed me their orange, to the teachers who said “thank you for doing this,” to the teachers who let students leave, to the staff that made chairs and a sound system possible, to the police that kept us safe, and to the administration that supported us as much as they could: thank you. You have no idea how much this means to us.
This morning, I woke up and went to school where I met Joe Bell, Danielle Dodd and seven other students to set up 165 chairs, a stage and mic system in the 20-degree weather on our frosty football field. Those nearly 170 chairs represent the lives lost in school shootings just during my lifetime. The racks of chairs were heavy to push up and down the hill to our track, but not near as heavy as the weight of the lost lives they represented.
This was not just a march, and it was not just a walkout. This is a movement. This is a chance for every student to make their voice heard and their intentions clear. This is our way of doing our best to make sure that there is never another Parkland or Sandy Hook or Columbine. There should not be acceptance of death on a scale this massive, and this is our way of saying that we are not ready to accept it, but we are ready to change it.
We students deserve the right to be safe in our classrooms and in our homes. This is our way of voicing our belief in that right. If you were at the walkout, you would have seen the hundreds of students linking arms with one another. You would have seen the orange color of school safety peppered among the crowd. You would have heard Joe Bell defend the second amendment but also ask for consideration of its connotations. You would have listened to Danielle Dodd ask us to consider mental health and the impact of reaching out to one another. You would have seen 500 kids text RESIST to 50409 so they could contact their representatives as Harper Ross asked each person to carry this movement into their homes and then onto the Congressional floor. You would have heard me say, “I love you,” more than a dozen times. You would have seen the tears of kids whose voices finally had a platform.
“Only love. No hate. We just want to graduate,”, “Our lives matter,”, “We want change.” These are the chants spoken on this day by this generation, and I have never been prouder to be a part of it.
Love, respect and peace,
Videos and transcripts of the poems and speeches written for the walkout
— Tonka News (@Tonka_News) March 14, 2018
The following is a submitted transcript of junior Joe Bell’s speech, read partly before and partly after the march:
For all of you that don’t know you me, my name is Joe Bell and I am a student as all of you are. Know who you are. No matter what race, religion, gender, background you are, as students we are all affected by school shootings, it could’ve been here, it could have just as easily been me or you or you or you or any of us being gunned down. We cannot wait for more children to die in order to ban bump stocks which create fully automatic rifles, we cannot wait to have better resources for mental illness, we cannot wait to just vote. We must demand change from our politicians. The reason we have gathered here to demonstrate and project our voices is for our fallen students and staff around our country, who no longer have voices, but died for ours. We must not lose this chance to demand action. What kind of a world are we going to create when we’re older. This is no joke, we should not have to be “marching for our lives” but that’s exactly what this is. We are here to visualize as a collective, we need change. Our voices matter. Every life matters, Every student matters.
These are the names of the students and teachers that lost their lives in the most recent school shooting. We would like to honor them today along with every other life lost to shootings. Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang. The adults that sacrificed their lives for students: Scott Beigel, Aaron Feis, Chris Hixon. These names in just one month would have been turned into more statistics on the TV as politicans and pundits argue, as the students come forward and demand change. Now it is up to us to join them, join our voices. Together we can change our culture.
This is not the same world that our parents and the people running our country went to school. No one knows what the atmosphere of schools are like better than the students. Mobilized students have voices and we are now using our voices to create the change we want inside our country, community’s, homes and lives. We cannot be written off because we are young, we will not be written off because we supposedly don’t know what we are talking about. Students are the only ones faced with life and death learning inside schools.
We the students are the ones that must cope with constant threats of death: in the one place where we should never have to worry about anything except learning. We the students should decide how to make our school’s safer. Students is it not already hard enough to learn in classrooms that have technology and class clowns? How will we learn if there is a presence of guns in classrooms? Students can barely keep their attention on the teacher in a normal classroom without distractions: let alone a gun.
If we could safely arm some teachers, how much training would be enough, how often, who would pay for it? Schools can barely find the funding for books and events. How will we buy guns for all these teachers? Even in the military after years of training some people can freeze in the moment, or misfire. The kind of thinking that would introduce more guns into a society plagued by gun violence is ridiculous and nonsensible. We can no longer even keep an accurate count on how many school shootings have happened, because they continue to happen constantly… Parents and friends of the victims are un able to stop and mourn their loved ones because they are fighting vigorously to craft and change laws. In the fight for change, the NRA called kids who had just seen their friends gunned down, political actors. This kind of behavior and ignorance should not be funding our government.
We must remove the politicians who say they represent the people that elect them, but in reality, only stand for the money being given from interest groups. Politician’s caught in what’s called an iron triangle which is an interest group such as the NRA or big tobacco which provides voting support and money to a congressional committee and by lobbying for bureaucrats (which is money and support). In return, the interest groups get favorable legislation from congress, and low regulations from bureaucracy’s. This is why our politicians represent large interest groups instead of the ordinary people. In the 2016 election the NRA donated around 70 million dollars, and had told the federal election commission that it had only spent 55. Donald trump, our president and commander in chief, received 10 million from the NRA, and also received 19.7 million in aid to attack his opposing candidate. I don’t know how much all of you make, maybe 10$ an hour at most So, we should all understand why our government is not acting upon this issue.
Our society transformed problems such as school shootings into jokes, instead of addressing the problems that must be confronted: mental illness, gun accessibility, school security. These constant threats and nothing being done about it is turning our country into a joke. Since the Parkland shooting there have been over 800 school shooting threats. How is the FBI supposed to take every threat seriously when we the students are treating our lives as a joke? Just a few weeks ago Tonka had a lockdown because there was a fake threat, or just a fabricated lie to try and get out of school. Is getting one day out of school more important than students’ lives? If we don’t take our lives seriously, why should politician’s? We the students must choose to stick up for our own lives. Students, we must not stand by and wait for our politicians to take their leisurely time passing laws protecting us. They will never sit in a classroom and hear gunshots followed with impulses of immediate panic. We must voice that we need change and need it now.
I encourage all of you to write, call, email, make contact with your representatives. We must all register to vote, and we must all participate in every single election! We have to inspire people, and care about our own futures. We have to wake politicians up. Tell them we want change and we want it now!
Why have shootings become so common that we can now only look at them in statistics, and not people. This is because “statistics” keep accumulating when we stop to mourn our friends, children, brothers, and sisters, teachers, students. Only 3 months into 2018 there have already been 19 school shootings where at least one person (besides the gunman) has been shot. This is not even including the number of single students who weren’t defined in the category of “mass murder.” As a nation, we must get rid of the stigmas surrounding mental health. We must call for new action for children’s mental health. Mental illness is not a joke, it is real and extremely powerful. I encourage anyone who needs help, or maybe just someone to talk to, reach out: ask for help and help will be given. We must also call for a universal ban on bump stocks that allow semi -automatic weapons to be converted into fully automatic weapons. We must also demand the age limit to buy any gun be raised to 21. This is to help ensure that guns don’t easily fall into the hands of high school kids. It should not be easier to buy a gun than to drive a car. Because I know every adult is a teenager driving a car, why aren’t they afraid of a teenager with a gun? The most fond and favorable activity of my life is turkey hunting with my father.
I am not saying we must ban guns or get rid of the 2nd amendment right, I am a gun owner myself, and love to hunt with my father. There is an indescribable feeling of home sitting in the woods watching the world awake. We always rise earlier than everything, creep into solidarity inside the thick trees, and gaze at a quiet dark field. As the hours pass and the sun begins to peek above the tree’s horizon, it casts a golden light upon the field glistening the dew from nights past. A slow and steady chirping of birds slowly begins. As the dew slowly melts from the grass you can see the colors of the forest take ahold. It is not the power of a gun that makes hunting fun, nor even killing a turkey. It is the beauty I find from nature, and the unreclaim able time spent with my father, who has stage 3 brain cancer.
However, growing up in the environment of guns while tagging along hunting with my father I learned to respect guns an unfathomable amount, first handedly seeing them kill things. A 12-gauge shotgun with one blast can blow a hole through a target, or blow the head off a turkey. It could, and easily does, kill people. So, from a young age I found the respect associated with guns. Yet I cannot respect a hunter who needs a weapon of war to hunt. Guns are made for killing things, and selling a fully automatic or semi-automatic, weapon of war is completely unnecessary! Any good hunter should be able to kill an animal with a simple shotgun or rifle, and if they can’t and need a weapon of war; I don’t think they should be hunting
Many people are afraid of guns, I am afraid the intent behind the trigger. I was fortunate enough to grow up around them and be educated about them. I was fortunate enough to feel the power of a gun, and fortunate enough to experience the beauty of an awakening world. How many more children must die before our society can wake up? The answer should be none. As a country, we must get better at regulating tools for human destruction. Human lives mustn’t be reduced to repetitive desensitized statistics any longer. In this time of darkness that has swept over our country, we mustn’t lose sight of the light America strives to be. I ask you all, my fellow Americans what can you do for your children. What type of world are we all going to live in, what kind of people are we going be in order to represent that world. Martin Luther King Jr once said, “the time is always right to do what is right.” We as a culture must decide what is right. It isn’t too late for our kids, it isn’t too late for our country, but as the days continue to expire so will more children.
Sometimes it is adults who teach children but it is time that children teach adults.
— Tonka News (@Tonka_News) March 14, 2018
The following is a transcript of senior Danielle Dodd’s speech:
Hi my name is Danielle Dodd, and I’d like to read to you a summary of “Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America”, a report led by Shane Jimerson of the University of California and Matthew Mayer of Rutgers Graduate school of Education, both are professors who specialize in the study of Gun Violence.
The project began immediately after the Parkland shooting and took two weeks to complete during which collaborators included some of the leading experts in the field. Two-hundred universities, national education and mental health groups, school districts and 2,300 individual experts signed on to support the document.
Their ultimate message is not to harden schools, but to take a public health approach, to make schools gentler by improving social and emotional health. Instead of waiting for the worst to happen, preventative measures should be put in place: we do our best to lower bullying and discrimination. It is also recommended that we remove the (quote) “environmental hazards” of gun violence, the guns. The plan calls for universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons.
The plan heavily emphasizes prevention. Research finds several key factors that make schools safer: cultivating social and emotional health, connection to community resources, and responding to troubled students.
All of this culminates in, essentially, in fighting bullying, discrimination and harassment within school, as a way to de-escalate conflict before it starts. We know that de-escalation works, there has been a steady trend of bullying and harassment going down, which can be partially attributed to evidence-based social and emotional measures.
Another important aspect of the plan is addressing the no-snitch culture within schools. California’s comprehensive annual survey showed that 20 to 30 percent of students above the elementary level consistently report seeing some kind of weapon at school, from knives to nunchakus to guns. Ideally, the witness will report the incident, and the report here urges that the school not punish the student that brings the weapon, but instead, use (quote) “education as an intervention.” The report calls for an end to exclusionary practices, such as suspension and expulsion, and instead matching students with counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers in the school and in the community.
The report touches on the idea of emergency modes, which would begin when a person reports a weapon brought into school or speaking about violence, which would then go to a threat assessment team, consisting of a principal, school counselor, school psychologist and school-based police officer, they talk to witnesses, try to get an idea how serious the threat is. Parents are notified and steps are taken to protect victims and, if appropriate, referrals to mental health care and law enforcement.
What these experts ask us to do is radically change our environment, change our punishment policies, change how we treat each other. Change is hard to come by, change is something that takes pushing, and pulling and a never-ending amount of work. Killing is something that takes just a pull of your little finger.
And about that little finger, attached to a bigger gun, I’ll say this about guns: they worry me, anything that can end a human life that quickly and efficiently worries me. It worries me more when we act as though they aren’t a factor in the situation America finds itself in, and there’s a lot of debate about the second amendment, and the wording, and militias, but my stance is this: the prerogative to learn should always trump the prerogative of weaponry.
I want to feel safe in my school. I want my six-year-old brother to feel safe in his school, and my ten-year-old brother to be safe in his school, and I want the kids I see every single day to be safe in our school. It is ours, it is our place that we create and add to, and whether you hate it here or you pour your heart and soul into Winnetonka, you deserve to be safe. We all deserve safety, and the peace of mind of knowing that we are. I know we can get it. Thank you.
The following is a transcript of junior Katie Bullock’s speech. It was preceded by a spoken word poem which can be viewed in the above video:
A week after Parkland a boy dropped his backpack outside my classroom. Three people jumped and whispered “shooting” like it was a question. This is not okay. When I went to Dr. Johnson about this event, he pulled me and Joe into his office and told us he was worried that this many people in one place could spell just another tragedy. This is not okay.
And this is not just Parkland. This is not just 17 people. It is not about the 200 chairs you see behind me, it is not Sandy Hook or Columbine or even school shootings in general. This is all of it. It is about the drive-by shooting a few houses away from mine four weeks ago, it’s about the little boy killed four days ago, it’s about the mom who hugged me and held me at a Harvester’s project and told me her son had been shot and killed the night before. It’s about all the people whose names we don’t get the privilege of meeting in person.
This is not just a walkout. It’s not just a march. This, us, we are a generation and I hope we are the generation that can turn around the proliferation of gun violence because I never want there to be another Parkland. But it doesn’t stop here. It doesn’t stop on this track. This has to carry into your classrooms and your living rooms. This is not just a march, it’s a movement. And I ask that we carry this movement in our thoughts and in our voices instead of in our backpacks because silence will not change a thing like this.
I’m going to be honest; I don’t hate school shootings. I have tried, believe me, but I can’t hate them. Because the thing is, these shootings are caused by hate, and I struggle to bring myself to hate them because it feels like I am just hating hatred itself and that feels too much like trying to bomb for peace.
What I do know, is that I love you all. I go to bed at night and I lay on my back because I know I will not fall asleep on my back and I think of all the people in this world that are so beautiful and incredible. And I love you in a way I am not sure how to describe and I know that sounds crazy but it’s true. We are all people. We are all here. I pray we stay that way.
But we have to speak up. When we see a policy that needs to be changed we cannot remain silent because silence is not silent when it is just stepping aside. When we see a person that needs help, we must reach out to them. This is me reaching out to you.
I ask people their favorite colors a lot and no one ever says orange. It is not a loved color, but today it is what we are surrounded by. So whenever you see orange, or your favorite color or yourself in the mirror I want you to remember me and you and this moment and I want you to remember what it feels like to know you are loved, at least by me. That feeling and our ability to voice it into words is the only thing we can use to change this world.
Listen, I am still not sure how Reyes can make music from misery. But I hope, I know, that one day that can be me, that can be all of us.
The following is a transcript of senior Harper Ross’s speech:
Hello, my fellow Winnetonka students.
My name is Harper Ross, and I’d like to first thank all of you for coming out here today, for using your presence, your voice, to stand up for something you believe in and something that affects us all—school safety.
I’d also like for us to give a round of applause for our fantastic organizers for this event who encouraged us to take advantage of the opportunity to gather here today to make a difference.
Today, we were given the opportunity to exercise our voices for a cause. In a world rich with injustice, we cashed in our right to speak out.
At 10:17, our protest will end. But at 10:17, we do not have to go silent.
While it may seem sometimes like what we think means nothing, today we proved that it means something. Today, we made our thoughts mean something, and through the most basic forms of activism and community engagement, we can continue to make them mean something.
Those of you who are 18, I urge you to register to vote. Voting is some of the best, most direct policymaking action you can take and who and what you vote for today can affect generations to come. Never let voting opportunities pass you by. If you have questions or concerns because of citizenship struggles, economic barriers, or another obstacle, speak with people here at school and in the community, and they will help provide you with the resources you need to make your voting dreams a reality.
I also have a text resource for you and would like to encourage you to text “RESIST” in all caps to 504-09 in order to get information on who your senators are based on where you live as well as how you can contact them.
Once again, I would like to thank you all for making your voices heard today, and I wish you all the best as you continue to be empowered by the recognition that all the power you could ever need to make a positive change lies in you. Have a wonderful rest of your school day, and thank you for coming.
Students reflect on why they marched
Students were given orange slips of paper at the end of the walkout on which they were asked to write down their ideas for ending gun violence or their reasons for attending the walkout. Many of these were then taped to the brick pillars just inside the student entrance to the school.